Here at Perspective, we love a good trend forecast as much as the next agency. For 2019, we are throwing our hat into the ring, taking a look at the latest trends in healthy snacks for kids. In 2018, plant-based and high protein snacks took off and we don’t expect that healthy snacks for kids at school or at home are going anywhere.
Convenience and on-the-go are ticking ever upward, powering a push to expand options for the littlest eaters. But let’s dig a little deeper into the best healthy snacks for kids to see what’s happening beyond the headlines and in people’s homes and, importantly, in kids’ lunch boxes. We know that a nutritionally appropriate, delicious snack for kids big and small is ready for discovery.
What exactly are the best healthy snacks for kids?
We’re not medical professionals, but as parents we’re always looking to pack healthy snacks for kids at school, and snack options that offer good nutrition. That usually means enough fiber and protein (roughly 5 grams of each) to give the snack a high satiety factor. Other benefits come from nutrients, including antioxidants or vitamins and minerals that boost the snack from the realm of empty calories into something more wholesome.
What are the new trends?
Functional nutrition is moving deeper into kid snacks. Ashi Jelinek, Founder and CEO of KidsLuv, developed a line of juice alternatives boosted with vitamins as an alternative to sugar-laden gummie vitamins.
“People are looking for benefits in their eating, snacking or drinking,” Jelinek says. “From a big retailer point of view, it’s ‘do you need this?’ I could buy the juice with 26 grams of sugar, or at the same price point, I can get this added value.”
When Bitsy’s, a line of organic snacks packed with fresh vegetables launched in 2013, “we were ahead of our time,” says co-founder, Maggie Patton. “People told us we were either in the baby or cracker aisle and we were like ‘no no, we are lunch box.’ The focus on healthy snacks for kids is now emerging.”
High protein snacks for kids
Perhaps influenced by the paleo movement, high protein snacks for kids are a natural part of the functional nutrition movement. In defiance of many schools’ preference for a nut-free environment, Perfect Snacks nut-based bars are packed with 7 grams of protein and 8 super-foods. Developed with natural sweeteners like honey and dates, the bars are sold in the refrigerator section to help maintain product freshness.
Matt Cohen, Founder and CEO of KidFresh approached high protein snacks for kids through the lens of nutrition. “Nutrition is at the core of our business,” Cohen says, “but taste is our number one priority. We would have no business if kids don’t like it.” KidFresh’s snack line, including Super Blastin’ Bites Uncured Pepperoni and Cheese Pizza with 9 grams of protein, boasts lower sodium than conventional brands and includes pureed vegetables to amplify the nutrition of a former junk food that kids crave.
Yogurt brands shift into the kid space
With overall yogurt sales down more than 3% in 2018, yogurt packaged for kids is a growing corner of the $1.4 billion market. Probiotic and protein-boosted yogurt presents a market opportunity to expand into healthy snacks for kids at school. Into a category long dominated by GoGurt and Stonyfield Farm’s YoBaby and Kids squeezable yogurt, Chobani is stepping in with a line of kid-sized milkshakes and yogurt tubes.
A third product, Crunch, is swirls of flavored yogurts with toppers included for the namesake crunch. Flavors, such as Poppin’ Cotton Candy, are protein-packed yogurt paired with rainbow rice krispies, waffle cone pieces, and other sweet bits for added texture. Good thing the name “candy” is right there on-pack for consumers to interpret as they will. In France, Danone recently launched Danone Bio Kids, unsweetened organic yogurt with an on-pack opportunity to engage with the brand via AI and your smartphone.
Baby food gets fresh…via meal plans and superfoods
Meal plans are not only for adults. Yumi and Little Foodie Club deliver freshly made organic baby food “to guide your baby through the three most crucial steps of introducing solid food,” adjusting flavors and textures as they grow and exposing the youngest among us to the global flavors on today’s table.
Perhaps recognizing that 73% of Americans consider a company’s charitable work when making a purchase, Once Upon a Farm, which makes squeezable, cold-pressed veggie and fruit blends amped up with superfoods like quinoa and avocado (and in which the actress Jennifer Garner is co-founder), is a certified B Corporation and non-GMO verified. The company also works with the Ron Finley Project to provide access to urban gardens and real food for underserved communities in Los Angeles.
Why should brands that don’t yet have a kids offering look at it seriously?
As snacks transition from empty calorie fun to meal replacements, the category continues to grow, creating an opportunity for brands. And parents are always looking for ways to build more nutrition into their kids’ meals and snacks. “For parents, it still comes down to the basics of ‘eat your veggies’,” says Patton.
Jelinek notes that the health halo around juice and other products targeted at children is shifting. “We are trying to change the conversation around calories and juice,” Jelinek says. “Instead of saying ‘juice is bad, drink water,’ we are saying it is ok to give kids juice. Just give them a healthier version.” To which Cohen would add a focus on convenience and taste. “We want to make what kids like but make it better,” Cohen says.
Branding and packaging design are key to simplifying choice for parents
With more brands angling to be the source of your family’s healthy snacks for kids at school, at home, and on the go, how can any brand stand out?
“There’s a tyranny of choice emerging in the healthy kids snack category,” says Peter Allen, Vice President at Perspective: Branding. “It’s great to have so many brands available now but too many speak, act and look the same. They lead with a laundry list of attributes – organic, gluten free, allergen free, dairy free, nut free, non GMO, vegan and so on – that are important but have become table stakes in the category.
“Parents are overwhelmed by all the noise,” Allen continues. “Brands need to simplify and clarify their branding and messaging to focus less on attributes and more on taste, fun and the emotional satisfaction of giving your kids a healthy snack that they love.”